The Road to El Dorado Review
The Road to El Dorado is a 2000 adventure comedy film and is DreamWorks Animation’s third animated feature film. While it is of course not great, it is still not bad as critics point out. It is a solid, passable entertainment.
It is set in the 16th-century Spain. Two friends Tulio and Miguel find the legendary city of gold in Mexico called El Dorado. They are then mistaken as Gods by the local community and later on have to protect the native people from incoming army from the sea. This is, needless to say, an incredibly cliched film. It is so cliched that every little thing that happens here can be predicted and has been seen countless times before. But especially the false God angle is so tired and overused that it can become annoying. And the friendship between the protagonists and their conflict at the end is naturally a familiar theme. However, while it is incredibly tired, the story is very engaging and it is entertaining from start to finish. It is even a bit charming at certain times and it has that mix of adventurous and comedic tone that was very pleasant to me personally.
The characters are okay. Nothing too remarkable, but still solidly developed. Tulio and Miguel have their moments, are well cast and they are perfectly fine main characters, but they can be annoying at times. But their friendship drives this movie and it is fun to follow, albeit as I said predictable. Chel was very annoying honestly. She is a typical strong female character that is nonetheless too sexually accentuated which I did not like at all. And her behavior overall is very irritating. Tzekel-Kan is quite solid as a villain and he certainly posed a real threat in my opinion, but he is still incredibly over-the-top and too emphasized. But Chief Tannabok is the highlight here and it may be weird to say that having in mind his little screen time, but he was so good-natured and his scenes with Miguel are standouts as they are so heartwarming. But overall the characters should have been better developed. No, scratch that. Their characterization is quite solid, but they are not likable and they should have been for this type of film to work.
The voice cast is really good. And quite professional. Both Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh did an excellent job in the lead roles and they literally carry the movie on their shoulders. But others also did fairly well with Edward James Olmos being especially good.
The humor is so-so and it is problematic that it is like that as the movie is part comedy. It has its funny scenes that bring something fun to the table, but it is all in all filled with too many repetitive jokes and annoying character behaviors that it mostly doesn’t work, for me at least.
This movie is frothy, there is no other way to say it. It is very entertaining and it nice to look at, but it doesn’t have much heart and it isn’t particularly impressive when important aspects like character development and storyline are concerned. But it has nice imagery, superb animation and it is mostly well edited. However, the whole first act is incredibly rushed and definitely the low point of the whole movie. It is rushed and does not properly introduce you to the characters. But once they arrive to El Dorado, it quickly gets better and better and the ending is well executed and overall quite satisfying and even endearing in some respects.
The soundtrack is unfortunate. The songs here do not make much sense and by that I mean that they come more often than not, but not as often as to classify it as a musical, thus leading to a jarring shift in tone. And those songs are mostly really forgettable and although wonderfully sung by phenomenal Elton John, they are still way out of place because the film needed something more old-fashioned to accompany its 16th-century setting. Yes, the songs are lackluster and way too modern and misplaced. But there is one exception to this. It is the song called The Trail We Blaze. It is still overly modern, but it is incredibly catchy and really well sung and accompanied with a solid sequence. It is definitely a musical highlight here, a very fun song and one of the most underrated songs from animated films without a doubt.
The animation is the standout and the best reason to see The Road to El Dorado. It is so bright and colorful and it perfectly captures this world with its great attention to detail. There is also some really excellent incorporation of CGI which is evident but is done remarkably well for the shiny gold for instance. It is so beautiful to look at with great imagery and the overall architecture and natural landscapes are the highlights. This was back at time when DreamWorks tried to do historical films and ‘The Prince of Egypt‘ is similar to this film in terms of animation that is superb, but this is a big step down in other aspects from that film unfortunately. However, The Road to El Dorado is overall in the middle in the DreamWorks cannon, it is not bad nor particularly good, but is a solid piece of entertainment that is better than many of their later releases.